Happily Ever After, pg2

 

             When I enter the study, I’m alone. It’s spacious with a comfortable feel. Recessed lights glow onto two overstuffed chairs set in front of the fireplace. Old books and original artwork adorn book shelves. A modest desk on the far side of the room sits framed by a large paned window. I walk over and run my fingers along its edge. It’s only features are four simple, turn-carved legs and a plain drawer set discretely at its center.

             “I bought that at auction.” I hear Colt say. “It’s from Amherst. Early 1800s. I’ve often wondered if Emily Dickinson ever sat there.”

             I look up to see him holding a bottle of wine and two antique-gold rimmed wine glasses. It’s as if I’m watching my life play out on a big screen. He pours us each a glass then raises his glass for a toast.

             “To old friends.”

             “To old friends.”

“How are you, Liv? How’s life been treating you? Tell me. Did you remarry? You have a son, right?”

             “Yes, one son. And a grandson now.”

             “No! We’re not that old. Are we?” He exclaims.

             We laugh.

             “Yes. Afraid so.” I answer and know I’m beaming now—my family is such joy. After a brief pause, “Let’s just say, I’m married, and it is not working out. I don’t want to ruin our time together.”

             He nods and with a tone turned serious asks, “Are you all right?” He reaches for my hand. “Oh, my god,” I think. “He’s looking out for me.”

“Yes. I’m okay,” I tell him. He gently squeezes my hand before letting go. I get the feeling he’s been here before.

“What about you? I heard you got married.”

             “No!” he immediately replies with surprise. “I never married! Where’d you hear that?”

             “I heard you got engaged a few months after we stopped dating and then heard you married a year later.”

He laughs at the suggestions. “I was engaged briefly. But I never married. It was never attractive to me. The rumor mill. Don’t believe everything you hear,” he says still finding humor in the mill. “I’ve had a couple of strong relationships. But, no, I never married.”

             My mind and my heart feel like the twenty-five-year-old I was when I last saw him. I feel excited. Impulsive. I see the young man in him also.

We settle into the chairs in front of the fireplace. He kicks off his shoes and throws his feet onto the ottoman closest to the fire. I’m not surprised at all about how successful he is. I’m not surprised that he’s still as handsome. What brings this smile to my face is how comfortable we remain with each other. He’s still the young man I remember even with all the trappings that come with success.

             We talk about our past, family, life, challenges and future goals. I ask most of the questions. One, because I’m interested and enjoy hearing all he has to say. But, also because my own life has been hell for years, and unless I go back more than a decade I have nothing I wish to share.  I hang on his every word.

             “Remember prom night?” he asks. “I came across some pictures I took that night of all of us at the beach. You wore a blue dress. Who was the guy you were with? Was he from town?"

             “I didn’t know anyone took pictures. I don’t remember anyone with a camera.”

“You never know,” he sheepishly replies.

I remember my senior prom attending only because I didn’t want to feel left out. I would have just as soon stayed home. What I remember most about that night is eight of us standing on the beach after prom when for a long moment Colt’s eyes met mine and I felt an incredible connection with him. It was more than attraction, but I couldn’t explain what I felt.

             “No. He was from Westford,” I reply about my date.

                 "I’ll find those photos and show you next time," he says.

             “Next time, there’ll be a next time.” I smile.

             Colt pours us more wine and tells me about his recent restoration project in Virginia. “It’s fascinating. Each is a study of history,” he says with a fervor I find rare in people. “You have to know when the house was built and what features would have been incorporated into the home. Most of the houses have been redone so many times they look nothing like they did when they were first built. You’d love it. It’s really something to see a piece of history come back to life—it’s original grandeur.”

There’s great satisfaction in his voice.

             He has three warehouses, one in Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania full of reclaimed wood and period pieces, entire staircases two-stories-or-more-high with their banisters intact. Stained-glass-windows, lead glass cabinetry, moldings, fireplaces meticulously removed. “Some of the fireplaces and staircases have hidden compartments used to hide arms during the civil war and liquor during prohibition. Homes had fake walls where people hid from intruders. My dream is to go to Europe one day and restore a chateau in France or a villa in Spain.”

             We’re in our own little bubble and lose all track of time until the intercom sounds, and a voice on the other end announces that guests are starting to leave.

             “Would you excuse me? I shouldn’t be long. Would you like to wait here?” He asks.

             I nod yes, and he steps into the hallway where I get a glimpse of the ocean wall.

             “Make yourself at home,” he says and closes the door.

             Fascinating how I can get lost in conversation and totally forget  how incredibly attractive he still is. George Clooney with a mix of James Brolin. His dark brown hair now salt and peppered, still full, with a cut that’s tailored today as opposed to the long hair and sideburns he once sported. His build is more muscular today than it was in his twenties a fact that was not lost on me at our first embrace. I had remembered him as taller, but his height is just right seeing as I wear only flats now. How many women must be knocking at his door, figuratively and literally?

             I get up from my chair and make my way around the room. The books on the shelves include architecture, restoration, history, and autobiographies. Some are first editions. Artwork dispersed among the books are original pieces signed by local artists. There are artifacts with notes attached: A Harris & Shafer sterling bowl dating back one hundred and fifty years; a carved wooden hand with a heart on its palm with a note, “Odd Fellows. 1880s. Folk art.”; a carving set is stamped Paul Revere Sterling; an early American powder horn and a Native American club found at the same location in upstate New York; a Native American medicine pouch, a tribal drum and moccasins. I wonder if they’ve come from homes he’s restored.

             An elaborate jade floral arrangementeach flower carved from different color jade—sits atop a slim, antique marble-topped pedestal in the corner of the room. I recognize the arrangement as a symbol of prosperity, wealth, luck and friendship. How fortuitous.

             Every item in the room speaks to me. The energy in the room is ethereal.

             Between the bookshelves is a doorway that opens to a spa area. The tiled floor is off-white with an inlaid, blue spiral pattern that extends to the far side of the room where a pedestal tub sits as the centerpiece. In the left corner is a shower tiled with a decorative Mediterranean, hand-painted mural. Adjacent to the shower is a steam room. A small room to the right provides privacy for an old-fashioned pull chain commode with bidet. The thought and detail for this space is incredible.

             A second door leads from the bath to the master bedroom. Fit for a king. I walk over and open the French doors to the patio, then take a moment to sit on the edge of the bed and look across the terrace. A section of the aquarium can be seen from the patio. “Here is the man I remember,” I think to myself. “Full of character and authenticity.”

             A rush of emotion starts to overtake me. There are so many thoughts and sensations running through my mind and heart that it’s impossible to decipher between them. My breathing becomes rapid and shallow and my anxiety builds. What is happening? The only answer I can think of is that I’ve become so numb these last few years, so detached from any real emotion that all I’m feeling right now is overwhelming. I need to leave.

I get up, close the patio doors, and walk out of the master bedroom to the study. For a moment I reconsider. Should I stay? No. I need to go. I step into the hallway and take a breath. I pause in front of the aquarium. It helps calm me. Just as I reach the stairs, Colt returns.

             “You leaving?” he asks.

“Yes. It’s late. I had a wonderful time. I loved seeing you.”

             The energy is palpable. It’s inspiring yet anxiety ridden. I must leave before my emotions get the better of me. But, go where? Back to a place from which I desperately want to escape? I can’t stay here either.

             “Excuse me,” I say as I look at Colt and manage half a smile moving  past him and up the stairs feeling ungracious in my haste.

             “See you soon?” He asks.

“I’d love that,” I reply and stop to look back.

“I’ll be leaving for Virginia. But, you’re welcome anytime.”

             “Really?”

“Yes. Please feel free. Make yourself at home. It’s been too long. Let’s not wait another thirty years.” He smiles. “You said you were writing. See if your muse feels comfortable at the desk. A writer belongs there. It’ll be nice to know someone’s enjoying it.”

             “I’d love to …”

             “It’s a date then; whether I’m here or not,” he says offering a wide smile. “I’ll let Sepp know you’ll be by.”

             The night air aids my composure. Alone with my thoughts, I think, “What an incredible night.” My heart is full. Love and gratitude. Of all this evening, Colt, Sepp, old friends—Colt’s memories touched me deeply. He spoke affectionately of a young woman I always remembered as a ball of anxiety and distress. I guess I was more. If I never see him again, I’ll forever have his gift.

Full of hope, I get into my car and begin the drive home keenly aware of the disparity in the life I’ve been living and the one I wish to create.

Thank you, Universe